HI-Governor: Duke Aiona's Linda Lingle Liability

Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle has had a remarkable run for 7-plus years as the popular Republican governor of one of the nation's most Democratic ...
by | May 5, 2010
 

Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle has had a remarkable run for 7-plus years as the popular Republican governor of one of the nation's most Democratic states. In 2006, she was reelected with 63% of the vote. But, for the sake of Duke Aiona, she picked an awfully bad time to become unpopular. From the Honolulu Advertiser:

Gov. Linda Lingle's job approval rating has tumbled to the lowest point in her two terms as the state's chief executive, a new Hawai'i Poll has found, as teacher furloughs and a sour economy have weakened her popularity.

Just 40 percent of voters interviewed said they approved of the job Lingle is doing with the challenges facing Hawai'i. Fifty-three percent disapprove, and 7 percent said they did not know.

The Republican governor has been among the most popular politicians in the state, with approval ratings that have often rivaled U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, the state's leading Democrat. Her high mark, according to the Hawai'i Poll, came in 2006, when 73 percent backed the way she was doing her job.

Aiona is Hawaii's lieutenant governor and the presumptive Republican nominee for governor. Given Lingle's unpopularity, it's no surprise that the same poll shows Aiona down double digits to either of his likely Democratic opponents.

These dynamics are probably part of the reason for what, when you think about it, is a pretty remarkable headline in the Honolulu Advertiser: "Aiona calls on gov to halt furloughs."

In Hawaii, governors and lieutenant governors are elected on a ticket. Aiona never has won elected office except as Lingle's running mate. So, that headline is a little bit like, "Biden calls on Obama to compromise with Republicans on financial reform," or "Biden calls on Obama to halt war in Afghantistan," or "Biden calls on Obama to [do anything in particular]." Usually, the second in command doesn't tell the boss what to do.

Now then, if you actually read Aiona's statement that prompted that article, you'll see that any criticism of Lingle is mild, implicit and perhaps non-existent. But, the fact that he's putting out statements on the subject at all seems (to me anyway) to reflect his nervousness that Lingle's stand on teacher furloughs is costing him his chance to be governor. The furloughs are quite a big deal. Other states and school districts are talking about reducing their school year by a few days to save money. In Hawaii, the cutback is 17 days.

I'm skeptical that seeking distance from Lingle will work for Aiona. They are part of the same administration. Aiona's best hope is that Lingle does follow his advice and find a compromise on the furloughs. That could allow Lingle to regain some of her popularity -- and allow Aiona to run as a third Lingle term.

Josh Goodman
Josh Goodman  |  Former Staff Writer
mailbox@governing.com

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